My name is Michelle Zechmann, and I am proud to say that I have just completed my first year as Executive Director of Haven House Services, an organization that has served Wake County at-risk youth and families for 37 years. I started this position knowing that this is where I was “meant to be,” and can honestly say, one year later, that I still feel this way every day!
Haven House Services staff knows that growing up can be hard, but growing up with the odds stacked against you can be overwhelming. Haven House Services has a proven track record of delivering services that engage with troubled youth, relate to their individual situations and transform their lives. We work with families, schools, the courts and other agencies to intervene with kids vulnerable to negative circumstances to help them find their way to a positive, productive life.
In the past year, Haven House Services has:
- Provided temporary emergency shelter to 206 youth at Wrenn House.
- Provided group mentoring services for over 200 youth.
- Served over 400 homeless youth and young adults through street outreach services.
- Gave 291 youth the opportunity for a healthier life through 2nd Round Boxing.
- Helped 172 youth keep up with their academics and learn new skills while they were suspended from school.
- Gave 419 youth the opportunity to give back to the community and repay their victims through our Restitution and Community Service program.
- Provided 56 families with intensive support and new ways to work with their youth through our Homesteaders program.
We have found that when youth come into our program, we are able to provide them a wide range of support and tools to help them make positive choices, despite so many difficult circumstances. I’d like to share with you a story about one of our clients, 13-year-old Jose.
Jose had been long-term suspended from school for gang/gang-related activity. He had a history of short-term suspensions including being caught with a stolen object at school, fighting and several other gang-related incidents. He was failing all of his classes and lived in a neighborhood that was filled with gang affiliated youth.
When Jose started with the Multisystemic Therapy Program (MST) at Haven House Services, his therapist began exploring Jose’s strengths and it was discovered that he liked sports. Jose began to participate in Haven House Services’ Second Round Boxing Program one day a week. This was an important turning point because he finally had something to look forward to. After several weeks, the MST therapist saw the first true smile from Jose when he was telling his mom the story of how he had gotten into the ring and sparred for the first time.
It was later revealed that Jose had some interest in being a police officer. Jose agreed to participate in the Explorer Police Academy for one week, but wasn’t sure if he wanted to be involved in any of the other programs that were offered by the RPD. However, he was hooked after the first week and attended the second week, which was job skills training. Jose had such a positive experience he volunteered each week for the rest of the summer at the various police camps, acting as a role model for the younger students that go to camps. As Jose was returning to school, he showed an interest in soccer. As Jose had never been on a soccer team, staff purchased a ball for Jose and gave him drills and practice exercises to increase his skills. After 3 days of try-outs, Jose made the high school soccer team!
Along with working with Jose, the team worked closely with Mom to improve her parenting skills. The MST team and his Mom feel confident that Jose can maintain these positive behaviors!
I’d also like to share a story of Nicole; a young woman in her early 20’s who just started her first year of college at Shaw University.
Nicole came to our homeless drop-in center several years ago as a homeless youth. When we first met Nicole, she was living on the streets and getting herself into dangerous situations. She was very confrontational and would get into fights with other youth in our Center. After staff worked with her for a while, she began to turn her life around. She used her determination and resourcefulness to get the help that she needed. She was able to get into permanent housing and got a job in the community. She stated that after being a part of the Haven House Services’ Preparation for Independence Program, she wanted to help others as well. She plans to get her degree in human services.
We are proud of the work we do here at Haven House Services. Jose and Nicole’s stories are just two example of how we work closely with each youth to understand their issues and challenges, and help them get involved in activities that motivate them, allow them to grow and make positive choices. Through Haven House Services programs, we not only help our clients, but through their growth, we also help their families and communities.
We know that to continue to support youth such as Jose and Nicole, we need to ensure that we have strategically-diversified funding options to meet the needs of our donors. Our endowment fund at the Wake County Community Foundation provides a secure vehicle for endowment and planned giving, and gives our organization an opportunity to grow the fund for future sustainability!